Seduction and Sacrifice(10)

By: Miranda Lee


'And where were your parents while this was happening?'

'My mother's dead,' she explained. 'My father had passed out. He'd been drinking. He came home with him. When Dad fell asleep he climbe d into my





bed. When I screamed, he put one hand over my mouth while he. . .he. . .you know what he did,' she finished in a raw whisper.

'And does this bastard have a name?'

Gemma shuddered and shook her head. 'I never found out and I never asked. I. . .1 see him in town sometimes, watching me.'

'But he hasn't come near you since.'

"No, but now that my father's dead, I. . .I'm scared.'

'How did your father die?'

'He fell down a mine shaft.'

'Are you sure he fell?'

Gemma blinked her astonishment.

'I think we should go to the police and tell them about this creep,' Nathan decided.

Gemma gasped and jumped to her feet. 'No! I don't want to do that. I can't tell them what I've just told you. I simply can't! Besides, I. . .I'm leaving Lightning Ridge tomorrow, on the bus.'

'To go where?'

'To Sydney.'

He stared at her for a long moment. 'Sydney's a tough town for someone alone,' he said. 'Do you have any relatives there?'

'I'm not sure.'

'Don't you know?'





She shrugged. 'My mother was born in Sydney but I never knew her folks. I. . .I was hoping I might be able to track them down some time.'

'How much money do you have?'

'Enough.'

His smile was sardonic. 'Independent, aren't you? Look, I'll give you my card. If you find yourself in a hole when you get to Sydney, or you're desperate for a job, look me up, OK?' Striding back over to his suit jacket, he drew a small white card from another of the pockets and brought it back to her.

'Tell me what I can do to help right now,' he added after she'd slipped the card into the breast pocket of her blue checked shirt. 'Did you drive yourself here? Can I walk you to your car?'

'Yes, I'd appreciate that.'

'And what about when you get home?'

'That'll be all right. Ma will be there.'

Nathan frowned at her. 'But I thought you said your mother was dead.'

'She is. Ma's not my mother. She's a friend.'

He sighed. 'Something tells me you're a very complicated girl.'

Gemma laughed. 'Ma says I have hidden qualities. Is that the same thing as complicated?'

'Could very well be. But I don't think I should try to find out." Having uttered this rather cryptic remark, he picked up his room key, took Gemma's elbow and ushered her outside. 'Can you still see him?' he asked.

Gemma's heart pounded as she looked around. 'No,' she sighed.





'Right, well, let's get you safely home.'





CHAPTER THREE

'S HE 'S become impossible, Nathan. Simply impossible!" Len ore glared at her ex-husband as he sat behind that damned desk of his, looking not the slightest bit perturbed.

'Kirsty is a typical teenager. You shouldn't let her upset you so.'

'That's easy for you to say. You don't have to live with her.' Lenore slumped down into a chair and sighed heavily. 'I'm at my wits' end. They're threatening to expel her from school. She's smoking on the sly, swears like a trooper and dresses like a trollop. I. . .I've been thinking of sending her to boarding-school,' she finished, flicking a nervous glance at Nathan through her long lashes.

Lenore knew what he thought of boarding-school, having been dumped into different ones by his drug- crazed mother whenever a new man came on to the scene, only to be dragged out once she was alone again and wanting company. By the time he was sixteen a totally screwed-up Nathan had run away from the latest five-star school, just in time to find his mother, dead from a heroin overdose.

With such a history, it was no wonder Lenore felt a little edgy about suggesting boarding-school for their daughter.

Nathan reacted just as she'd feared.

'She won't be going to bloody boarding-school,' he bit out, snapping forward on his chair. 'She can come live with me for a while.'

Lenore's lovely green eyes widened with genuine surprise, then narrowed into a frown. 'Where? Not at that beach-house of yours. Who would mind her till you got home from work?'

'I'm living at Belleview till Byron gets out of hospital and on his feet again.'

'Oh, yes, I forgot. Poor Byron. How's his leg?'





"On the mend. He might have to use a cane for a while, though.'

'He'll hate that.'

'Better than being dead, like Irene. Though maybe Irene's death isn't such a tragedy. She was a miserable bitch, and she made Byron miserable too.'

'For heaven's sake, Nathan, don't you ever have any pity for anyone?' Lenore snapped, irritated with this hard man whom she'd tried to love, but failed. He just wouldn't meet her halfway. Or even a quarter way.

'I have pity for a daughter whose mother doesn't want her around,' he said coldly.

'That's not true and you know it! Oh, Nathan, you can be so cruel sometimes. Cruel and heartless.' Tears flooded her eyes and she rummaged in her handbag for a tissue.